Bunny Yeager Dies At 85Sunday, May 25, 2014
|Bunny Yeager, Bettie Page - "Bunny Yeager's Darkroom" 2012/Rizzoli New York.|
Photographer Bunny Yeager died today and she was 85. I was a fan of hers for years. I had known about her when I first started what was then the complex combination of flash in daylight with largish cameras. A slightly earlier contemporary to Yeager was Peter Gowland. He perfected syncro-sunlight. His pictures of women (ladies in the parlance of the day) frolicking in the sand and surf (while being blasted by a Honeywell Strobonar flash) were then imitated to perfection by Yeager. The only competition in my eyes to that sort of thing could be seen in the Beautiful British Columbia magazines of the 70s that would feature a man holding a fish on a canoe and blasted by a powerful flash on a sunny day. To those of us who are photographers we knew the reason for this was to fill in the shadows under the eyes cast by an overhead sun.
What Yeager brought to glamour (definitely a word that needs that u) was the necessary eye of a woman. Even today too many photographs of women (and men) are taken by men. This is especially true in the ever diminishing bank of newspaper photographers.
Yeager and her favourite model Bettie Page brought the idea of glamorous wholesomeness. The idea that a woman all tied up with a gag on her mouth (there are many such pictures of Page like this) could smile in the light of day (a powerful flash) in many ways helped to diminish the stigma of picking up a Playboy on the sly.
It is interesting to note that it was impresario Gary Taylor in Vancouver who went all the way to the BC Supreme Court to give us men (there were few women then who dared) the right to have a beer, a hamburger and watch a woman take it all off at our downtown job lunch period. Lawyers and businessmen did it. They were not strip bars. They were show lounges.
In my view Gowland and Yeager’s photography is now almost old hat. We look at their pictures and we sigh at what seem to be naïve photographs. It took Helmut Newton to inject tension, hidden desires and perhaps then (but certainly not now) the idea of sexual proclivities that were verboten.
It is almost funny to mention here that all those women with white skin, black hair in bangs, with tattoos here, there and everywhere, who like to walk on Granville Street are Bettie Pages as seen originally by Bunny Yeager who thought men, in general were lousy photographers of women. The snap of Bunny Yeager which appeared in today's NY Times does not give the photograph a photographer's credit. Yeager was so disappointed in how men photographed her that she started by taking her own picture. If this is such a picture it sure beats all the contemporary selfies we are forced to see. Any photographer with any class (except those who used white patent leather shoes and dangled large gold necklaces ) would have never been caught dead with one of those Calumet 4x5 cameras with red bellows(note the correction in the addendum below). On the other hand those bellows go so well with Yeager's outfit.
That wholesome girl from Tarzana, California
The last temptation of Bond
In the early 90s I found myself being given the title of Director of Photography at Vancouver Magazine. This meant I was what is now called a photo editor. When asked by the art director about my take on how to photograph a most attractive radio show guy of the time, Fred Latremoile I suggested we assign a female photographer who would see the man as a handsome man and would perhaps inject sex appeal into the photograph. I was told that my idea was preposterous including my suggestion that Latremoile be sitting barefoot, on a ghetto-blaster in Spanish Banks (a Vancouver beach). I was told to take the picture. I think it was a wasted opportunity.
Addendum May 26, 2014
Just to be nit-picky, the camera in the Yeager picture is a 5x7 Burke and James. I actually had one once, and also had and
used Calumets for many years.
Gordon Lafleur, Parksville BC